Chapter 6.2 Buildings

Decarbonising homes and non-domestic buildings – regulations

Decarbonise Scotland’s homes through a strong regulatory framework including mandatory standards.

UK Govt
Scottish Govt
Local Authorities
Emissions reduction
Behaviour change

Heating homes accounts for 15% of Scotland’s annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It is the single largest source of emissions from heat, which itself accounts for half of Scotland’s energy use and a third of all Scotland’s GHGs.

The Heat in Buildings Strategy has set a target of over 1 million homes heated with zero emissions heat by 2030. It is clear the voluntary approach will not drive the pace and scale necessary to meet this target.

Decarbonising homes will require improvements to energy efficiency and the swapping of fossilfuelled boilers for either individual electric heat pumps with new larger radiators or district/ communal heating, depending on property type and location. There has been too little investment in these solutions, with emissions from existing homes falling only 2% in the last five years.

The Scottish Government has previously committed to setting minimum standards of energy efficiency for all homes (e.g. applied at point of sale or change of tenancy) and the phasing out of fossil fuel boilers. These measures are part of the Bute House agreement between the Scottish Green Party and the SNP.

Regulations are the best way to secure private investment that is crucial to meeting the considerable capital cost of decarbonising homes. Public funding will still be required, however, to help households afford the changes and ensure a Just Transition. Therefore the need is for a framework of regulations to drive investment coupled with an increase in Scottish Government funding to support fuel poor households with fully funded installations and partial grant support to others. Further benefits, including decent local jobs, would accrue if this work was done through municipal energy companies.147

The regulatory framework should include:

  • an ‘efficient and renewables heat ready’ energy efficiency standard for existing homes and non-domestic buildings, including a minimum energy efficiency standard, with all homes required to meet this standard by 2030
  • zero-emissions heat regulations for homes and non-domestic buildings, requiring the replacement of oil and gas boilers to start from 2025
  • a phased approach for flats and tenements
  • changes to the fabric of individual buildings and housing estates to promote sustainable travel by residents – bike storage, car club provision, less or no space for garaging, etc

This should include equalities analysis (both in design and implementation).

By confirming proposed regulatory standards, the Scottish Government will provide foresight to supply chains, enabling them to scale up. There are huge opportunities to create good jobs right across Scotland, supporting the Just Transition.

Action on energy efficiency would tackle fuel poverty, reduce health impacts (and cost to the NHS) of living in cold homes, reduce demand on networks at peak times therefore reducing infrastructure requirements (and cost and wider environmental impacts).

For further information:

Version 1.0: September 2023

The contents of this document will be updated on a regular basis.